Vinai Venkatesham has used his promotion to become Arsenal‘s chief executive to lay down a demand to get back into the Champions League. Mikel Arteta’s job title has been changed from head coach to ‘first-team manager’ – the same title Arsene Wenger enjoyed for so many years – and he has been made central to on-field affairs alongside technical director Edu.
Above them, Venkatesham is the man organising the finances for the board and while he insists that Arsenal has the wherewithal to exist outside the Champions League, the fans simply would not accept it.
“We want to be back in the Champions League,” he said. “It is important economically, it is important for fans, it is important for players, staff and everybody.
“We need to re-establish ourselves there. Yes we talk about we have been in Europe for 25 years in a row and that is an achievement.
“But we want to get into the premier competition.”
This will be the fourth season that Arsenal have missed out on the gravy train after a record of 18 consecutive seasons on board.
Venkatesham believes it is central to the club being able to compete even on a domestic level.
He continued: “The Champions League cannot be the final destination because obviously we want to get back in the mix competing for the Premier League after we have got back in the Champions League.
“I’m not for a moment saying it is going to be easy. You all see the same league that I see – hugely competitive, stern competition from a whole load of other clubs.
“But it has to be the ambition if you’re Arsenal football club.”
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When they finally ended the Wenger era, Arsenal insisted the club would now be run in a completely different way.
He had, after all, been appointed in the previous century and his all-encompassing job would be split between a number of different figures at the club. Nobody would again have so much influence.
To signify this, Unai Emery was given the specific title ‘head coach’, not manager, and expected to work within a framework of new faces.
But on Thursday night, Wenger’s old name badge was dusted down and handed back to his former captain to take up the mantle once more.
Technical director Edu remains a key voice – but then he was one of Wenger’s Invincibles, learning from the Frenchman in his pomp.
And overseeing the flow of talent from the academy is Per Mertesacker, the last man Wenger officially handed the captain’s armband to before he finally left.
Gone is the god still revered by Arsenal fans. Now, in his place, a holy trinity of his acolytes, with the club making no apologies for continuing that tie to the past.
“The way I see it on the football side is we have three critical individuals,” new chief executive Vinai Venkatesham said.
“We have got Per Mertesacker, who is heading up the academy. We have got Mikel and Edu who are together heading up the first team and I see them as a pretty phenomenal team
“Energetic, winners, driven to succeed and they have got this football club absolutely in their heart.
“And between them you have got two club captains, an Invincible, around 350 appearances for this club so a really powerful combination and, in world football, something that I think is pretty unique.”
But if Arsenal fans want a historically context, Venkatesham’s conversation with outgoing director Ken Friat, who has served the club for 70 years, is perhaps the most concerning.
“He has walked into probably the toughest nine-month period this football club has had in it’s 134-year history,” Venkatesham said.
“I say probably, but I checked with Mr Friar and he has been here for 70 of those years and he says it is the toughest period the club has ever had.
“So, take it from him if you don’t want to take it from me.”